NEW YORK Barnes & Noble Inc (BKS.N) Chairman Leonard Riggio is considering a bid for the company's bookstore business, the Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday, citing people familiar with the situation.
Riggio is the company's largest shareholder with a nearly 30 percent stake. He pioneered the book superstore format in the 1980s and 1990s.
According to the Journal, Riggio would take the company's 689 retail stores private, splitting that business from its Nook e-reader and tablet business and its college store chain.
Riggio's interest so far has been tentative, the report said. One person told the Journal that Riggio would make his interest formal this week and publicly disclose it.
A Barnes & Noble spokeswoman declined to comment on the report. She said Riggio also had no comment.
Barnes & Noble's retail business has struggled in recent years as more book buyers have switched to digital formats.
The company saw a short-lived rise in sales after the September 2011 liquidation of rival Borders Group.
But Barnes & Noble reported poor holiday sales at all its divisions in 2012. The company posted a 10.9 percent decrease in sales at its bookstores and on its website over the year-end holiday period.
The bookseller said in January last year that it might spin off its digital and e-reader business. It created a separate unit for its Nook and college bookstore chains called Nook Media. That unit has drawn investments from Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O) and British education and media publisher Pearson Plc (PSON.L).
The Nook, launched in 2009 to compete with Amazon.com Inc's (AMZN.O) market-leading Kindle, has been the cornerstone of Barnes & Noble's strategy to counter the shift by many readers to digital books.
The company has poured hundreds of millions of dollars into the unit, but questions about its value have swirled after the disappointing holiday season.
Earlier this month, Barnes & Noble said its 2013 loss for Nook would be deeper than expected and sales at the unit would fall short of the $3 billion the company had forecast.
(Reporting by Michael Erman and Phil Wahba; Editing by Dale Hudson)